Keyana Williams always gives in to her sexy alter ego when she's writing poetry. Her sultry work is gathered in her debut anthology, Sex Inspires My Best Poetry: The Urban, Erotic Poetry of Lady K, which she'll read tonight at, natch, Ambiance: The Store for Lovers. "When I'm inspired to write, it's a different person that takes over," says Williams, who graduated from John Hay High School in 1997. "As I was editing the book, I read one particular poem, and my mouth just dropped: 'Oh, my God! I wrote this?' Keyana is shy and kinda serious, and Lady K is a bit wilder."
The poems take readers on "steamy sexual escapades" in four parts: foreplay, intense moments, mind sex and group sex. To get her audience even more hot and bothered, Williams also recorded a CD - included with the book - in which she recites the poems between hip-hop tracks by local rappers Skent Dukes, Ryan and NYARAN. "I want my poetry to inspire people to be free," she says. "I want them to create intimate moments of their own." The book signing is from 6-9 p.m. at Ambiance: The Store for Lovers, 21200 Libby Rd., Maple Hts. Admission is free. Call 216.663.6663 or visit ambiance.com. - Cris Glaser
OVER THE TOP
A tug-of-war over a magical top hat triggers zany antics between a ringmaster and a clown at tonight's start of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' production of Over the Top.
The mayhem erupts when ringmaster Chuck Wagner battles Tom the Clown for control of the circus. Each time the hat changes hands, the show switches tempo - from horse stunts by the Royal Cossack Cavalry to pony-riding goats in the Barnyard Bonanza. Along the way, the Ukraine-based Bombastic Bouncers perform jaw-dropping gymnastics, and the Henan Acrobatic Troupe channels its Chinese ancestors with daredevil acts on swinging poles and bungee cords.
The show also spotlights hundreds of flying dogs and dancing elephants, along with miniature horses, pigs … even a sharp-needled porcupine. Ouch! The circus comes to town at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Mondays; 11:30 a.m., 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays through November 2, at Quicken Loans Arena (100 Gateway Plaza). Tickets: $15-$80. Call 216.241.2121 or visit ringling.com. - Glaser
The D.C.-based Capitol Steps comedy troupe takes swipes at the country's top politicos at PlayhouseSquare tonight. The show gives the group's five members one final swing at the GOP. "The party in power is always funnier," says Elaine Newport, who co-founded the act in 1981. "During the first four years of the Bush administration, it was hard to find a funny Democrat. We had the opposite problem during many of the Clinton years. But election years are great because you can get both parties."
The comics' past political careers help shape the jokes, since each member worked as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill, where they first came together on a lark at a Christmas party. These days, they play the comedy circuit full-time with a repertoire of 30 songs and skits. "It's everything from George Bush and an Iraq song to Kim Jong Il singing a show tune and the Supreme Court doing a disco," says Newport, who was an assistant to former Illinois Sen. Chuck Percy. "You're constantly running off and changing your costume, your wig and your accent."
The most challenging part of the job, she says, is trying to be funny and non-partisan at the same time. "We thought we'd do this once for a Christmas party and be told to stop or be fired or both," says Newport. "But 27 years later, no one has stopped us. So we're still going." Showtime is at 8 p.m. at the Allen Theatre (1501 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $10-$35. Call 216.241.6000 or visit playhousesquare.com. - P.F. Wilson
The Kraker Brothers Band gets its hootenanny on at tonight's Hoofin' Hoedown to raise some coin for the Olmsted Falls-based HOPE horse-rescue agency. Organizers will also take the mic to spread their message about saving orphaned horses that are headed to the slaughterhouse. "It's hard for me to understand that people overseas eat horsemeat," says Robin Heike, HOPE's board secretary. "When people argue that we eat cows and pigs, there's a big difference. Horses aren't just a grazing animal that you raise to kill. They're beautiful, graceful and smart."
Smokey Bones Restaurant will cater the blowout with a menu filled with other types of dead animals, including barbecued pulled-pork, chicken breast and St. Louis-style ribs. There will also be a $2,000 reverse raffle to help the activists buy $50,000 worth of hay, grain, bedding and vet care for 26 horses that are either in foster care or living on a four-acre farm in Olmsted Township. "Sometimes we're there until 10 at night to make sure everyone's taken care of," says Heike. "I'm a city girl who grew up in Brook Park, where we didn't have horses in our backyard. This way, I feel like I own them all." The party starts at 5 p.m. at the Columbia Ballroom (24883 Royalton Rd., Columbia Station). Tickets: $30. Call 216.906.4399 or visit hopehorserescue.org. - Glaser
The Cuyahoga County Public Library system hopes its four-session BAG It! classes will turn kids into the next Bill Gates.
This morning's program - whose acronym stands for Build Arcade Games - will show kids, between 8 and 13, how to create and edit computer games at the library's Orange Branch. The Independence Branch (6361 Selig Dr.; 216.447.0160) will boot up its own month-long series next Saturday. "The children come up with objectives of the game and the characters," says spokesman Robert Rua. "At the end of the session, they can take the game home on a memory stick. You never know; they could be budding Microsoft employees of the future." The workshops run from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturdays through November 15, at the Cuyahoga County Public Library's Orange Branch (31300 Chagrin Blvd., Pepper Pike). Admission is free, and registration is required. Call 216.831.4282 or visit cuyahogalibrary.org. - Glaser Monday 10.27
THE VINYL CAFƒ
Think of Stuart McLean's NPR show, The Vinyl Caf, as a hip Prairie Home Companion, with skits, essays and music that take place in a fictional Toronto record store. The veteran Canadian broadcaster will record his program tonight at PlayhouseSquare. "It's like an expanded live version of the radio show," says McLean. "Whereas the radio show is an hour with five or six songs and one story, this is two-and-a-half hours with three stories and more songs. Plus, other little things that we do are fun with a live audience."
Half of the show's episodes - which you can hear at 3 p.m. Sundays on WCPN-FM 90.3 - are recorded in a studio. McLean travels throughout Canada and the U.S. to tape the rest of the programs. The continental sojourns, he says, make the work more interesting. "As a Canadian artist, you work for a decade in Canada, and you get to a point where you think, 'How do I make it difficult again? Where is the thin ice now?' Maybe going down to the States is thin ice." The taping starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Theatre (1519 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $27.50-$37.50. Call 216.241.6000 or visit playhousesquare.com. - Wilson Tuesday 10.28
DR. SKETCHY'S DRINK & DRAW
Three years after two New York illustrators created the flagship Dr. Sketchy's Drink & Draw, Cleveland Institute of Art grads Jason Tilk and Aaron Erb have bought into a Cleveland franchise of the "sketch club for art monkeys." Tonight, the duo brings its program to the Beachland Ballroom for a seasonal offering that challenges participants to sketch a model in various Halloween costumes while they play a series of drinking games. "This is anti-art school, so there's no judgment whatsoever," says Tilk. "I went through five years of CIA where the critiques can be pretty grueling. At the same time, there are all sorts of skill levels we have, with some really great artists that have humbled me and some who are rusty but still have a good time."
The group reserved the bar exclusively for artists, so bring your own drawing utensils. Plus, you'll be eligible to win a door prize if you show up in costume. "But you must draw," says Tilk. "We don't want people just randomly hanging out, ogling and acting all creepy. Otherwise, we'll be like, 'Take a hike.'"
You should also perfect your drinking skills for the games that go along with the sketching. At the club's inaugural session last month at Lava Lounge, a couple of artists scored banana-flavored shots for winning images of a monkey drawing a monkey. "We also gave a cheap bottle of wine to whoever could incorporate a bottle of wine into their sketch," says Tilk. "But you gotta manage what you drink. The water that can float the boat can also sink the boat." Drink and draw from 8-11 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd.). Fee: $10. Call 216.383.1124 or visit drsketchycleveland.com. - Glaser Wednesday 10.29
Charlise Lyles gives credit to the biographies she borrowed from her alcoholic dad for helping her endure the poverty that plagued her Cleveland public-housing complex during the late '60s. She chronicles her climb out of the King-Kennedy Estates on East 123rd Street and into the ultra-exclusive Hawken School in Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?: From the Projects to Prep School, which she'll sign tonight in Euclid. "I'm convinced you cannot corral poor people in a small universe of nine or ten blocks and expect them to thrive, because we all begin to feed on each other's problems while losing access to upward mobility," she says.
"Fortunately, we moved out after we saw the murder of the ice-cream man and another murder while we were playing kickball. Public housing today is a dismal failure because the theory behind it is wrong."
The book also traces Lyles' steps to track down her estranged dad to tell him she'd won a $12,000 high-school scholarship to Hawken. She found him in a run-down apartment. To her amazement, he celebrated by showing her his stash of biographies and history books that he'd hidden under his bed. "I discovered him down and out but no less in love with learning and reading," says Lyles. "He was a fish out of water in Cleveland, because opportunities for him to teach just weren't around for African Americans at the time."
But his bad luck didn't stop Lyles from aiming big. At Hawken, she discovered a drive to learn that eluded her in Cleveland's public schools. "When I climbed that hill to attend Hawken School, I witnessed the raw inequities of our school systems," says Lyles, who co-founded Catalyst Ohio magazine, which appraises school districts throughout the state. "I wrote the book to go back and reflect on that time, and the challenges I took on there to emerge whole and powerful."
She's also spreading her recipe for achievement to inner-city teens: read, study and challenge your teachers. "Young people - particularly African-American children in the core city - need to realize that literacy is freedom and enfranchisement," says Lyles. "It involves cutting off the television and the cell phone to just sit down and read one book every week." Lyles signs Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? from 7-8 p.m. at the Euclid Public Library (631 E. 222nd St., Euclid). Admission: free. Call 216.261.5300 or visit euclid.oh.us. - Glaser